BELLAIRE - Joe Dunlevy didn't hesitate when he said that his 2013-14 Indian Creek squad is the one the best he's coached in terms of its foul shooting. The Redskins displayed it Friday night inside the 'House of Champions.'
Despite connecting on two field goals in the final quarter, the Redskins escaped with their sixth victory in 15 outings by virtue of a 73-69 victory against Bellaire.
"This team is as good as any I've ever coached in terms of making free throws, especially in the fourth quarter of close games," Dunlevy said. "They just make them."
That proved to be the winning potion once again.
As they had to fend off a 12-0 run by the Big Reds in the final quarter, which was ignited by junior shooter Nathan Steele and senior Sterling Wright, the Redskins made good on 17 of 21 from the foul line. The Creek's final nine points of the game came on free throws.
"When we're running offense in the fourth quarter, we're not holding the ball," Dunlevy said. "We're trying to score, but we're also trying to get to the line because we know we can shoot them. It worked out for us in the end."
The Big Reds' furious rally just ran out of time. Senior Kenny Hess hit a trey to make it 71-69 and Bellaire quickly fouled senior Jonathan Haught, who didn't miss.
Dunlevy made sure his troops didn't foul coming out of a timeout with 1.5 seconds showing. After the timeout, all five Redskins stood just on the court, in front of their bench and watched the final play.
"(Indian Creek) had some guys go down there and knock down some big free throws when they had to," Bellaire coach J.R. Battista said. "If they miss a couple of those ... who knows? They're a little more nervous than they already were. But, that's a credit to them because they've been through the wars. Some of those kids have played in OVAC finals or sectional finals."
The Redskins appeared as if they were going to run away and hide from the Big Reds when they scored seven of the first 11 points in the fourth.
"Our inexperience in tight games reared its ugly head again," Battista said. "It's a learning process. You don't learn how to ride a bike by reading a book or watching a tape. You learn by getting on the bike and riding. Fortunately, we can't get one of these tight ones, but our kids are still battling and trying hard."
Indian Creek led 13-11 after one and upped the margin in each of the middle two quarters by outscoring the Big Reds, 18-14, in the second and, 23-18, in the third.
More often than not, it was Haught who sparking the Redskins offense as he finished with a game-high 30 points.
"Johnny is a good player, but sometimes I don't think he realizes how good he is," Dunlevy said. "He can do some things."
Haught's scoring was complemented by Jonathan Woodbury's 20. He was 10 of 11 at the line.
Bellaire was well-balanced in the scoring column with five in double figures. Steele finished with 19, Tyler Ramsay added 15, Wright netted 14 and talented sophomore Michael Neil finished with 11 after being bottled up much of the night by the solid defense of Blake Roar.
"You want to win every game, but in the real world, unless you're West Liberty, you don't win every game," Battista said. "We'll just keep working through it. Unfortunately, we've not been able to make enough plays in the past stretch of games. We're close, but we just can't get over the hump. One day, I think we will."
The Big Reds held a slim 24-22 edge on the boards. Their 11 turnovers was one fewer than the winners.
Bellaire managed a split with a 57-22 victory in the reserve game.